Filling needs on a co-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship team that graduated 16 seniors was a primary goal entering the recruiting season for South Carolina State.
With a new place-kicker/punter in the fold and added depth at wide receiver, on the defensive line and in the secondary, Bulldogs head football coach Buddy Pough said Wednesday his team accomplished most of those set goals.
“We did need to have a couple of specific needs satisfied some,” he said. “We needed some big skills guys. We needed another tight end or two, so we took a big class of those guys. We needed a corner kicker guy. We took (Tyler) Scandrett out of Lamar County, Ga., and we needed another defensive back or two.
“We’d still like to try to find a guy maybe later on in the process. Maybe a transfer guy down the road. But I thought overall that what we were able to accomplish and I thought we did a good job of getting the right people.”
Along with a transfer safety Chris Pauling (5-9, 183 pounds) out of Ball State, the Bulldogs signed a defensive back out of their home county in Lake Marion’s Alex Brown. Schools like Georgia Southern and Elon apparently had the senior Gator on their radar, but he decided to stay close to home.
“I like the community and like the team play,” Brown said. “They seem to be together like brothers and that’s what I want it to be.”
Brown rushed for 950 yards and five touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 588 yards and seven scores as a senior for the Gators. He also had 62 tackles on defense, where he’s expected to compete for a position in a Bulldog secondary that lost three starters to graduation.
Most important for the S.C. State staff was Brown’s desire to become a Bulldog. Pough acknowledged the tragic Jan. 24 shooting death of defensive lineman Brandon Robinson on campus made it a challenge to keep all of the prior verbal commitments.
“I was a tough situation of sorts, but I think we are pretty good in overcoming adversity,” he said. “Our staff – and I really need to take my hat off to my entire staff. Coach (Danny) Lewis is in charge of our recruiting process, but these guys just continuously fought and did everything they could to put together a class.
“We were close on a lot of guys. You get in there and guys are leaning just over the edge towards the next school and that kind of stuff. This recruiting thing is not like a situation where you can afford to come in second. So we had some situations where we had to move some things around toward the end to make it all come together. But because of some of our situations that we were dealing with during this time, we had some issues that way ... but at the same time, our guys were able to overcome most of them.”
Those issues were not a concern for Lake Marion’s Brown, who remained unwavering in his college choice.
“I feel as though people all over the world are having those types of incidents,” he said. “You wouldn’t think it would happen close to home, but if you like the campus and the school, then you should go.”
The same was apparently true for Shrine Bowl fullback/linebacker Damu Ford of two-time Class 2-A Division I champion Dillon. He was part of the final group of prospects whose visit to the campus was canceled following the Robinson tragedy, yet the Shrine Bowl representative and S.C. Football Coaches Association’s Lower State Back of the Year still signed with the Bulldogs.
“It was a real stressful process, but at the end of the day, I made the right decision and am looking forward to being at South Carolina State,” he told the Florence Morning News. “I am comfortable playing offense or defense, wherever they need me. I just love playing football.”
“He is as good as anybody who has played here at Dillon High School and I will stand by that,” Dillon head coach Jackie Hayes also told the newspaper. “I think other schools missed the ball on that. He will show them.
Bringing in players who wanted to become a part of the program’s history and tradition was the biggest positive Pough took away from this year’s signing class.
“South Carolina State’s a good place and this football program has done a great job of mentoring and driving kids to do some really good things on the way to becoming men. We’re proud of that fact and the fact that some guys decided towards the end of the process that they didn’t necessarily want to come here or didn’t feel comfortable coming here, we just kind of took that as let’s go see if we can find those guys who do want to come. So we don’t necessarily try to make people want to come who don’t want to come. We want to make people come who see the value of what we do for young men and we ended up getting those guys.”
Pough said it’s too early to determine whether he’ll once again redshirt the entire incoming class as he did last year. When asked about personal expectations, Brown made it clear he wants to be active from day one.
“I’m expecting to play right away,” Brown said. “As soon as school is over, I’m trying to go to summer school, start lifting weights, getting in condition because I want to be on the field.”
Up next for S.C. State are spring practices, which start March 17 and conclude with the Garnet and White game April 12.
S.C. STATE 2014 SIGNING CLASS
Kwamelle Barnes OL 6’5 315 Saluda HS Saluda, SC
Jermiane Baxley DB 6’3 185 Burke Co HS Waynesboro, GA
Alex Brown DB 5’10 170 Lake Marion HS Holly Hill, SC
Quan Caldwell WR 5’11 170 Chester HS Chester, SC
Kendall Cobb TE 6’2 250 Peachtree Ridge HS Lawrenceville, GA
Quadarius Fair WR 6’2 200 Northwestern HS Rock Hill, SC
Damu Ford FB 5’11 240 Dillon HS Dillon, SC
T.J. Foster WR 6’3 175 Union County HS Jonesville, SC
DeAngelo Frazier TE 6’5 213 Baptist Hill HS Adams Run, SC
Caleb Harris OL 6’5 260 Dutch Fork HS Irmo, SC
Lynard Jamison WR 5’9 165 Blythewood HS Columbia, SC
Jontavious Mack DL 6-2 190 Lackawanna College Darlington SC
Austin Ruger TE 6’2 225 Dutch Fork HS Irmo, SC
Tyler Scandrett Specialist 5’9 170 Lamar County HS Barnesville, GA
Robbie Stephenson OL 6’3 250 Creekside HS Atlanta, GA
KJ Williams TE 6’1 230 Dutch Fork HS Irmo, SC
Bryant Wilson DE 6’5 230 Burke County HS Waynesboro, GA